I’ve been running conventions, festivals, and events for well over two decades now. There have been tremendous changes within that time, unsurprisingly – for example, quite relevant to my own life and career, it’s not like there were really any Steampunk events 20 years ago. Not anywhere in the entire world.
But there are a few principles which I can say have remained quite constant. I thought I would share three of them with you now.
1. What you get out of it is always going to be, in part, up to you. I think we have all had the experience of someone who goes into a film or play determined to hate it, and while it is sometimes possible for the medium to win that person over, most often it is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they do, indeed, hate it. In a similar fashion, an event can win you over even if you’re going in with an attitude of negativity. But it certainly is not likely that if you’re determined to be unhappy, you will be unhappy, and if you’re determined to be happy, you will enjoy yourself.
2. Dress, first and foremost, for yourself. A lot of people put a great deal of thought, and sometimes a great deal of worry, into what they will wear to a fandom event or a subcultural festival. That’s quite understandable; clothing is a language, and it does do a lot of speaking for us. But there is a really simple key to this: dress any way which helps you feel like you are where you want to be, doing what you want to do. Everything else after that becomes easy.
3 . And finally, remember this: the rules they told you about socialization when you are in kindergarten seem childish because they were enacted for and by children, and given to you for reasons that might have seemed arbitrary or overly simple even as a child. This is because we tend to instruct children in social mores in terms which rightly seem insipid or insufficiently justified when we look at them as adults. That is NOT because they’re not helpful rules So when you say things like
“ Be nice to others if you want them to be nice to you”, it sounds like a platitude or a threat, instead of what actually is: a perfectly rational and sensible transaction. But use those rules. Use them as an adult. In essence, recognize that if you are in a place where everyone is there to have a good time, your actions matter. Actions which facilitate other people (and you!) having a good time, actions which show an awareness of other people’s wants and needs and general personhood–those things will will tend to increase the level of everyone’s happiness. And actions you take which disregard those things unnecessarily, whether it be needless meanness or selfishness or aggressiveness… well, not only will you have a worse time, but so will everyone else.
These are three Simple Rules, but I think you will find them highly applicable, and while they’re quite obvious, people do not always use them, and they really should. I would like to see more people giving this simple philosophy a try. I believe the results would be quite lovely.
Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks). He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.